The head of AIB has warned that Brexit will weaken Irish financial institutions as foreign firms relocating here will poach the best talent with better pay offers.

Richard Pym has also questioned if the UK will actually leave the EU and has said that Theresa May’s minority Government does “not have the bandwidth” to bring in the necessary policies and regulations in time for the March 2019 Brexit deadline.

Speaking at the MacGill summer school in Glenties, Co Donegal, Mr Pym agreed that Brexit would bring lucrative financial sector jobs here and said Ireland should be “promoting itself aggressively” to UK firms.

However, he warned: “The one downside is that incoming firms will poach their senior staff from the large domestic firms and as they are not subject to the same pay constraints this will weaken our main national financial institutions.”

Mr Pym told the summer school: “There is nothing wrong with Ireland promoting itself aggressively to UK businesses looking to relocate. It is not an unfriendly act as some have suggested. Do not expect vast numbers of evacuees to arrive in Dublin, as Frankfurt and Paris will be the main job winners. But even a few thousand highly paid jobs arriving will generate knock-on economic activity.”

The AIB chairman went on to say that for “business- planning purposes” firms and the Government “must assume that Britain crashes out without a deal”.

“This minority government just does not have the bandwidth to create the replacement regulatory structures and policies by March 2019,” Mr Pym. “Amongst this chaos we could easily end up with a hard, car-crash Brexit and it is also conceivable, although unlikely, that Britain could even remain,” he said. Also speaking at the event Ibec’s Fergal O’Brien said debt levels in Ireland have “fallen like a stone” in recent years and we are living in an “incredibly wealthy high-income” country.

However, the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Robert Watt disagreed with IBEC that debt is now low and said “we do not accept this view that we should go on a spending splurge” as this country “still has a debt issue”.

He said infrastructure would have to by paid through either “user charges or taxation” and said there is no magic solution.

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